The evolution of drone warfare in Ukraine has been a significant development in recent years

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Posted by jammer from the Agriculture category at 17 Feb 2024 06:05:08 am.
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Drones have revolutionized the Ukraine war, setting it apart from all previous conflicts. These unmanned aerial vehicles vary in size and capabilities, from tiny quadcopters armed with cameras and grenades that buzz over front-line trenches to flying bombs transporting warheads weighing dozens of kilogrammes (pounds) into Kyiv and Moscow.
In the past months, Russian forces have launched a series of attacks on Kyiv and other major cities. These attacks have involved the deployment of Iranian-manufactured Shahed "kamikaze" drones. In retaliation, Ukraine has conducted unmanned offensives in Crimea and the Russian border region of Belgorod.
As of Tuesday, the Russian government pointed fingers at Ukraine, alleging that Moscow had been attacked using these devices.
The current portrayal is a far cry from the exaggerated hype that once surrounded the Turkish-manufactured Bayraktar TB2 drones at the onset of the war.
The aircraft became newsworthy and were highly praised in musical compositions for their involvement in obliterating Moscow's armored columns and the Moskva, the flagship of the Black Sea fleet.
Nonetheless, the relevance of these models, known as MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance), has waned due to the enduring conflict.
An unidentified source from the European defense industry revealed to AFP that the front line has now stabilized and become impervious due to the implementation of Russian defense systems, specifically designed to defend against aerial attacks.
Currently, the drone war is primarily concerned with numerical calculations.
As per a senior French military source, air defenses are highly effective in intercepting suicide drones. Their primary purpose is to force the defenders into firing their missiles and depleting their reserves.
“You also create terror and uncertainty at all times. Over the long term, that has value,” the source added.
In a recent report, analysts Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds from the British defense think-tank RUSI pointed out the importance of Russia being able to degrade enemy air defense systems inexpensively. This is crucial given that Russia's production of long-range missiles is currently capped at around 40 per month.
According to sources, Moscow's air force launches a significant number of aircraft to expand the range of potential threats and evaluate weaknesses in the Ukrainian air defense. The primary goal is to identify gaps in the defense system where conventional missiles could potentially penetrate.
The European industrial source mentioned that Kyiv utilizes commercially available Chinese propeller-powered drones or old Soviet jet-powered reconnaissance drones to conduct operations deep inside Russian territory.
– Front lines –
The vast bulk of drones are smaller variants utilized for both reconnaissance and offensive actions on the front lines.
Ukrainian troops have released several videos on social media platforms displaying modified commercially available drones dropping bombs onto Russian soldiers' positions.
On a 10-kilometre front line, RUSI's Watling and Reynolds mentioned that there are usually 25 to 50 UAVs from both sides.
Designed with specific purposes in mind, Ukrainian Furia and Russian Eleron-3 drones have an impressive range of up to 50 kilometers. Conversely, modified commercial quadcopters, often sourced through crowdfunding, are limited to distances of fewer than 10 kilometers.
Deploying electronic defenses has become necessary for both sides due to the swarms, leading to a decrease in the cost of countering devices that are too cheap to be targeted with expensive missiles.
RUSI's analysis reveals that the Russian forces have integrated an average of one significant electronic warfare system for every 10 kilometers of frontage. Furthermore, there are additional electronic warfare capabilities that are more specialized and employed at higher echelons of command.
As per the senior French officer, the Russians have amplified their electronic warfare endeavors, representing a significant change in their approach.
Individual Russian platoons have been equipped with anti-drone weapons, including directional jammers and arrays for hijacking UAVs, as confirmed by RUSI drone jammer.
Anti-drone “rifles” that emit jamming signals are “the absolute basics of defence, what really works are non-portable jammers deployed close to the front line”, the European industry source said signal jammer.
Nonetheless, they mentioned that these "huge orbs on tripods with generators" are easily recognizable and are not expected to last long.
– High attrition –
In the opinion of the French officer, drone and anti-drone warfare epitomize a contemporary form of combined arms combat.
As with infantry, cavalry, and artillery, we also have drones, electronic warfare, and connectivity.
It was highlighted by the officer that the intense focus on their eradication causes small drones to have a minimal flying duration, usually not exceeding four to six flights before being intercepted and shot down.
Ukraine has reported a significant loss of approximately 10,000 drones per month across their extensive range of devices. Nevertheless, the accuracy of this claim remains unverifiable, raising suspicions that it could be a tactic aimed at obtaining increased Western aid.
With breakthroughs and counter-offensives potentially bringing back swiftly changing front lines, drones will continue to hold value.
Vikram Mittal, a professor at the US military academy West Point, has proposed the idea of Ukraine employing drones to remove Russian defensive barriers during its anticipated summer attack, such as by dropping explosives into a minefield to create a passageway, as mentioned in Forbes.
In cases where agile advancing forces are blocked off, drones could be utilized to deliver ammunition and other essential supplies to enable them to carry out their tasks.
June 2023
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